A local’s guide to Adelaide: ‘It can be a bit conservative, but also really exciting’

From botanic gardens to a pumping small-bar scene, there’s more to Adelaide than meets the eye, says artist Billie Justice Thomson

Food

Because there’s so much produce grown close to the city, Adelaideans are used to having access to really fresh food. The best place to see that is the Central Market, a tightly packed little universe of food stalls that has no room for anything mediocre. The result is an intense patch of people that are genuinely interested in food and fresh produce.

I love shopping there, but it’s also a great place to grab lunch. The sandwiches at Lucia’s are as good as it gets; they get the best bread in every day, use South Australian olive oil instead of butter and the charcuterie is sliced in front of you to order. I also love Saudade, where the Portuguese custard tarts are still warm when you order them and come sprinkled with cinnamon.

Inspiration

Adelaide can be a bit conservative, but it’s also really exciting, and the Art Gallery of South Australia encapsulates both sides of that. When you walk in it feels really European and old-school, but then you go further in and find new collections and fantastic contemporary works. I’m really drawn to Nora Heysen’s flower paintings, and Tarnanthi is an incredible festival that highlights the unpredictable and unconventional approach taken by a lot of Indigenous work.

From there, you can tick a lot of art boxes within a 15-minute walk of the gallery. The South Australian Museum has an impressive collection of Indigenous art, and the MOD (Museum of Discovery) looks at the future of art and technology. Jam Factory is a teaching space that also showcases craftspeople, jewellers and furniture makers, while Samstag, Sasa and Ace are South Australian-focused contemporary galleries within easy reach.

Neighbourhood

It’s only a 20-minute drive from the city to the Adelaide Hills if you get a good run, but there’s such a quick shift of landscapes, it feels as though you’re two hours away. That helps to fuel a great community of makers with a strong philosophy of supporting locals.

Brid in Piccadilly is a coffee shop that also bakes fantastic bread, and Ensemble Studios next door is a beautiful store with three owners who make shoes, earrings and cut flowers. The Scenic hotel is a great place to end the day. You have to try the kangaroo schnitzel, and it has views looking through a valley to the ocean.

Green space

The Park Lands around Adelaide’s city centre are the reason Adelaide is one of only two National Park Cities in the world, but I’m obsessed with the Botanic Garden. There’s so much to see, you could get lost for a whole day; the Palm House is a delicate building with panes of vivid blue glass that make it feel otherworldly. The Amazon Waterlily Pavilion is incredible and the giant lilies look like something from a film set. But my favourite place is the Museum of Economic Botany, an austere time capsule of objects connected to farming and plants in South Australia. It’s a peaceful sanctuary within the garden, and a reminder that Europeans weren’t always here.

Nightlife

I lived in Melbourne for seven years and when I came back to Adelaide in 2016, the small-bar scene was pumping. They completely changed the atmosphere at night and made the city more accessible, diverse and welcoming. Now you can always find a bar that suits your mood. Udaberri is the original small bar and still one of the best, while Hains & Co is refined and has expertly made drinks. Loc is an inviting space with a great selection of natural wine, and 1000 Island feels like a nightclub where you can be a grown-up and not feel out of place.

Accommodation

If you want to get the most out of Adelaide, you have to stay in or very close to the CBD. The Majestic Minima in North Adelaide (from $135 per night) is within walking distance of many attractions, and my friend Jasmine Crisp just painted the exterior with native fruits and flowers. Inside, every room has a feature wall from local artists including Peter Drew, so you’re not just looking at white walls the whole time.

Contributor

As told to Alexis Buxton-Collins

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
A local’s guide to Brisbane: ‘what do you want? Because it’s all here’
Brisbane may be a medium-sized city but thanks to a multicultural food, arts and nightlife scene, it’s also a world tour, says star chef Louis Tikaram

As told to Matt Shea

17, Dec, 2022 @7:00 PM

Article image
A local’s guide to the Gold Coast: ‘There’s a great grassroots art scene’
Forever an Australian go-to for simple, sunny holidays, this sandy stretch of beach suburbs has matured into a thrumming metropolis. Still, nature is never far away, says local artist Dion Parker

As told to Matt Shea

30, Dec, 2022 @2:00 PM

Article image
A local’s guide to Hobart: platypus spotting, spontaneous nights out and grassroots energy
Surrounded by green, arts and nightlife thrive in Hobart and there’s (finally) good coffee for the morning after, says film and theatre-maker Briony Kidd

As told to Ruth Dawkins

01, Dec, 2022 @2:00 PM

Article image
A local’s guide to Darwin: soul-stirring sunsets, enlivening art and multicultural markets
Proud Larrakia woman Nicole Brown – Darwin’s 2022 Citizen of the Year – shares her favourite places to eat, unwind and connect with her ancestors in the saltwater city

As told to Nannette Holliday

08, Dec, 2022 @2:00 PM

Article image
A local’s guide to Melbourne: ‘The best part is the element of surprise’
Victoria’s capital is rich in hidden galleries, bars and clubs, idiosyncratic buildings and exciting food, says architectural designer Nancy Beka

As told to Cristian Bonetto

11, Jan, 2023 @2:00 PM

Article image
A local’s guide to Coffs Harbour: ‘The culture here is being outside’
There’s the muttonbirds and the supersized banana, but this NSW coastal destination is known for its friendly outdoor lifestyle – and a growing food and culture scene, says artist Sarah Lyttle

Interview by Kate Hennessy

17, May, 2024 @3:00 PM

Article image
A local’s guide to Perth: ‘It feels like the city is settling in a little bit’
By embracing Indigenous culture, walkability and an outdoor lifestyle, Perth is becoming more itself, says Cass Lynch, a researcher, writer and south coast Nyoongar woman

As told to Max Veenhuyzen

17, Jan, 2023 @2:00 PM

Article image
A local’s guide to Sydney: ‘Nightlife is the best it’s ever been right now’
New (and revamped) venues are opening at a dizzying pace in Sydney. For the best food, clubs and beaches, you have to put in the work, says DJ Deepa Alam

As told to Michael Sun

24, Jan, 2023 @2:00 PM

Article image
Tuning up for the Adelaide festival – the Edinburgh of Australia

David Sefton, Adelaide's new artistic director, was hired to overhaul its programming. And he started by reuniting one of his favourite bands: industrial stalwarts Severed Heads. Interview by Alison Rourke

Alison Rourke

24, Feb, 2013 @7:30 PM

Article image
Beyond Byron Bay: a local's guide to the NSW northern rivers' lesser-known towns
From the world’s largest crystals to world heritage rainforests and list-topping beaches, it’s worth venturing beyond northern New South Wales’ most famous town

Amy Fallon

26, Jan, 2020 @4:30 PM